Posted on Thursday, 08.22.13
Thousands of Cuban doctors headed to Brazil
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Facing a physician shortage, Brazil plans to import 4,000 doctors from
Cuba to work mostly in poor, rural areas at a cost of more than $200
The first installment of 400 Cubans to participate in Brazil’s Mais
Médicos (More Doctors) program will begin arriving this weekend and will
undergo three weeks of orientation along with other doctors who have
earned their diplomas abroad, said Brazil’s Ministry of Health.
All 400 doctors in the first wave have participated in other
international missions for Cuba, which sends healthcare professionals to
more than 50 countries from South Africa to Bolivia.
The best known of Cuba’s medical exchanges is the so-called
doctors-for-oil program in Venezuela. As many as 35,000 Cuban healthcare
professionals, security advisors, teachers and sports trainers work in
Venezuela in exchange for some 96,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil daily at
Brazil, meanwhile, suffers from a serious shortage of doctors. In 2009,
it had 15.1 physicians per 10,000 population, while Cuba had 66.3
doctors to serve 10,000 people, according to the Pan American Health
Organization. The United States physician ratio was 26 for every 10,000
Inadequate public healthcare in Brazil was one of the complaints that
touched off massive street demonstrations in more than 100 cities this
After millions of Brazilians took to the streets in June to protest a
bus fare increase, political corruption, high crime, poor education and
inadequate healthcare, among other issues, President Dilma Rousseff
pledged a “grand pact” to improve public services in Latin America’s
She repeated previous calls to send thousands of doctors to rural areas
and devote 100 percent of petroleum revenue to education. This summer,
the National Congress voted to designate 75 percent of future oil
royalties from its new deep-water oil fields to education and 25 percent
to improving healthcare.
The Cuban doctors will come via a technical cooperation agreement that
Brazil signed Wednesday with the Pan American Health Organization. The
Brazilian government plans to spend nearly $209 million through next
February to bring in the Cuban doctors. The money will be channeled to
Cuba through PAHO, the Americas office of the World Health Organization,
and it will be up to Cuba to decide how to parcel it out.
Under the Mais Médicos program, which Rousseff launched July 8, Brazil
pays doctors a monthly salary of $4,098 and a cost-of-living stipend to
work in poor rural areas and urban slums.
Brazilian Minister of Health Alexandre Padilha said the Cuban doctors
will be sent to 701 communities — most in the North and Northeast — that
were not selected by Brazilian doctors or other foreign physicians who
signed up for the program. After the first registration period that
ended Aug. 13, only 1,096 Brazilian doctors and a few hundred foreign
doctors, many from Spain and Argentina, had applied. Mais Médicos needs
The Cuban doctors “are experienced physicians who have already worked in
Portuguese-speaking countries and that have a specialty as family
doctors. We are certainly bringing a very prepared group to Brazil,’’
said Joaquin Molina, the PAHO representative in Brazil.
Still, there has been resistance among Brazilian medical professionals
to importing Cuban doctors. Some have questioned the Cubans’ training
and language abilities.
Jorge R. Piñón, interim director of the Center for International Energy
& Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, said even
though Brazil potentially has billions of barrels of deep-water crude,
he doesn’t see the doctor program in Brazil having the same implications
it does in Venezuela.
“I think Brazil’s interest in Cuba is purely political,’’ he said.
“There is oil in Brazil but technology will have to catch up with the
finds. The play in Brazil is no longer oil, but ethanol and sugarcane.
What Brazil has an eye on in the future is Cuba’s sugar industry.’’
Source: “Thousands of Cuban doctors headed to Brazil – Americas –